It was just after eight-thirty on a Wednesday morning.
The bus moved along the lanes still deserted by traffic.
Shortly after the Japanese holiday that praises health and sport, we didn't see a soul in those rural surroundings of Kyoto either.
It occurred to us that a good part of the population had fallen asleep recovering from the communal exercise a few days ago.
An automated female voice announced Kinugasa-ko-mae. Despite the inevitable shrill, childlike tone, we recognize our fate. We left.
Ahead rose a slope with vegetation alternating between verdant and autumnal.
We'd prefer it to be all or, come on, almost all, with the dazzling shades that precede the fall. Mount Kinugasa and its slopes never gave way to whims.
Uda, the 59th emperor of Japan, demanded to see the beautiful landscape, snowy, at the height of summer. To satisfy him, the subjects of the region took the trouble to wrap the area in white silk.
The mound's name translates this unexpected event.
And if, since then, many more events worthy of note have taken place in these parts, one plot in particular moved Japan in a way that has not happened since the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
And the consequent capitulation in World War II.
Yukio Mishima's Royal History and Romance “The Golden Temple”
It became so notorious that it was reconstituted more than once as a film and, as a novel “The Golden Temple”, by the controversial Yukio Mishima. The abundance of artistic reconstructions ended up diluting reality in fiction.
It is known that Hayashi Yoken was originally from a coastal village in northern Japan, an ugly son of a Buddhist priest who, at one point, led him to admire and praise the beauty of Kinkaku-ji.
Kinkaku-ji, in turn, was the old villa of Yoshimitsu (a shogun), transformed into a Buddhist temple by his son according to his father's wishes.
According to both Mishima and the director Kon Ichikawa, after the death of his father, with World War II in full swing, Hayashi Yoken (Mizoguchi in the book and in the film) moved to Kyoto. He became one of the three Kinkaku-ji temple acolytes his father worshiped.
On the first anniversary of his father's death, Hayashi Yoken's mother visited him.
Hayashi Yoken (Mizogushi) and His Pungent Personality
Insensitive to the damage to his personality caused by his son's stuttering and ugliness – weaknesses exploited by colleagues and other young people to humiliate him – he forced on him his longing that he should succeed the leader of the religious community.
By that time, as Mishima let on, the imagery of the temple reduced to rubble by the American bombs was already fascinating Hayashi.
But the Secretary of War of USA Henri Stimson – who had spent his honeymoon in Kyoto – considered that the city had too much cultural importance.
It repeatedly and stubbornly removed it from the list of targets to be provided by the US Air Force.
Both Kyoto and the Golden Temple survived the war, but in Mizoguchi's schizophrenic mind, the vision of the temple's destruction and the desire to own and control it continued to struggle.
The news of the Japanese capitulation devastated him. At night, he climbed a hill around the city and there he decreed a curse: "May the darkness of my heart be that of the gloom that surrounds these endless lights".
Various relational and sentimental deviations then take place with several new characters.
As his mental illness intensifies, the antipathy towards the temple's chief priest, whom Mizoguchi sees with a geisha in 1949, is yet another undignified behavior of that religious tutor he was supposed to admire.
At the same time, the fact that the Golden Pavilion became a tourist attraction visited and also penetrated by the Yankee occupiers without the impotent Mizoguchi being able to avoid it, fueled the urgency of destroying it.
At one point, Mizoguchi overheard two convoy passengers talking about the temple: "The annual tax-free revenue of the Golden Pavilion must exceed 5 million yen while operating costs cannot exceed 200." claimed one of them.
"So what happened to the balance?" questioned the other. “The Superior feeds the acolytes cold rice while he goes out every night and spends the money on the geishas from gion. "
The Arson that Consumed Mizoguchi's Disillusionment and Obsession
The acolyte's displeasure increased visibly. For Japan, the Golden Pavilion had become a historical symbol. For him, it was just an intoxicating monument to the decay and commercialization of Buddhism.
On July 2, 1949, Mizoguchi entered the Golden Pavilion. He spread straw strands across the wooden floor. After some hesitation, he set the building on fire. He tried to go up to the third floor but the door was closed.
Feeling the deception in the plan of his glorious death, he left the temple, semi-intoxicated, running.
A recent temple fire Todai-ji of Nara caused by an electric blanket of one of the restorers working on a large painting had led the Japanese authorities to install advanced alarm systems for the time.
The one at the Golden Pavilion also sounded, but the combustion logistics installed by Mizoguchi ensured a rapid spread of the fire.
Even so, the arsonist managed to ascend a hill. In time, in the manner of a young Japanese Nero, between delirium and regret, to contemplate the final flames.
The Restored and Shining Kinkaku Ji of Our Day
Let us take up our own contemporary steps.
When we entered, the landscaped complex was almost empty.
We walk in nature until we come to a large lake full of water lilies. A rope that delimited the access to the section closest to the bank stops us.
From there, we marvel at the vision reflected in the dark water of the rebuilt Golden Pavilion and now bathed in gold leaf.
It seemed to float beyond the ten small islands of Lake Kyoko-chi (Mirror Lake), below a verdant forest of large Japanese pine trees with gnarled branches and canopies brushing the blue autumn sky.
A phoenix, also gilded and with open wings, was displayed over the Zen-style third-floor spire, its Dome of the Fundamento.
Below, the second floor included a Hall of Buddha and a shrine to the goddess of mercy.
It was called The Sound of the Waves Tower and built in the style of the warrior aristocrats. At the base gleamed the Dharma Waters Chamber, inspired by the style of the domiciles of the eleventh-century Heian imperial aristocracy.
During moments, observed by some carp and koi Eager for the food thrown in from time to time by visitors, we were dazzled by the beauty that had obsessed both Hayashi and Mizoguchi.
Half a century later, the Same Sightseeing Tours that Revolted Mizoguchi
A little later, part of the blemish that had made them despair ravage us.
The first autopullmans they had arrived. Hundreds of tourists appeared behind their guides with little flags high up. They invaded and disputed with great fanfare the confined space by the lake, until then only ours.
In a flash, they corrupted the spiritual peace that was being felt.
With no great alternative, we fled to the medieval period-style Muromachi garden that surrounded us. There we enjoyed the unexpected harmonious Zen atmosphere.
For a short time. The horde of visitors, mostly Chinese, soon followed us there too.
Surrounded, we decided to leave the complex altogether.
For a few days, we prolong the discovery of millenary Kyoto and sumptuous in which the acolyte Mizoguchi had wandered.
And that had disappointed him so much.